Monday, November 24, 2003

Who is My Neighbor? 

Was challenged today as I read this article on loving one's neighbor. The author writes: " I recognize that this essay will disturb and offend some of those who read it since it is calling into question the faithfulness of the vast majority of the Western church in regards to obeying one of the two most important commands. I also recognize that it is human nature to reject this proposed way of life because it seems so extreme." Well, I have to admit that I was disturbed!

It is hard not to agree with what my brother has written; the commandment is also clear enough: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." Yet, I know I fail to live up to it many times. I am guilty of pandering to my desires, of "treating" myself to this or that. And I pride myself on living a simple lifestyle! Of course, as my brother has noted, it is easy to justify the satisfaction of these desires. God gave us good things to enjoy, right? We're not meant to live as ascetics are we? In our increasingly materialistic society, the consumerist impulse beats strongly in most of us. In fact, we seldom think twice about our purchases (my wife might be an exception; having served in Cameroon and Nepal, she is more sensitive to waste and wantonness than most). But it is obvious that our choices, including our spending choices, have ethical and social dimensions, often of global proportions.

Where does one draw the line? Can we never "indulge"? Moving beyond individual choices, what about our churches? Why do we need large and lavish buildings that sit empty most of the time? Why do we need paid professionals to spoon-feed us and hold our hands? Why is it that a large chunk of a church's budget is dedicated to building programs, expensive sound systems, paid staff, etc., and very little is given to missions or feeding the poor? The early church was known for giving alms to the needy; what about us?

But in the end, I must consider my own life. May God help me to live, give and spend more intentionally and prayerfully, keeping in mind that I am a steward that must give an account one day.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Praying for the Persecuted Church 

A brother in the Lord invited a bunch of us to his place to pray on the occasion of the International Day of Prayer, November 9-16. Sadly, out of about a dozen people invited, only 2 of us showed up (along with the host couple). I must confess lest the reader think I'm super-spiritual, that I didn't feel like going. It was a dark rainy day, and I had lots of other stuff to do.

But I was glad that I went. I was reminded of the intense persecution of my fellow believers in other parts of the world. It was remarked that perhaps we in North America need a dose of persecution to awaken us out of our spiritual slumber and apathy. Sadly, the IDOP wasn't even announced at my church.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Abusive and Authoritarian Leaders 

I received this tragic e-mail from a dear brother in the Lord. Please pray for him.

I am a Christian. I am also a battered sheep who is trying to recover his wife and children from an abusive church environment. So far I remain unsuccessful.

One of my brother-in-laws has been shunned by the church group going on 20 years now. His sons have been encouraged to move away from him and cut off all contact until he "repents" for his independent thinking. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my brother-in-law spiritually or morally. He is an upright and genuinely decent fellow, yet he has been demonized all these years by church leaders who want him under group control! Unfortunately, I participated in this until I began to wake up and begin to question also. And when this happened, I was pointed out as one to be avoided until I repented of my independence. My children, raised in this system automatically following leadership's decision and have shunned me as we all once did my brother-in-law and, sadly, my wife's mother.

This is a really tragic situation. Families divided and destroyed because of leadership control. I can have my family back, I am told, but only if I submit to leadership.

This has been a lone and discouraging battle for me! So you can imagine my excitement at discovering your web site.

I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and I am seeking moral support and information so that I can help family and friends who are caught up in this abusive, controlling church group.

This e-mail may be a bit hasty and disjointed due to the time of morning and my excitement at finding your site. Please forgive. But there are many here in this area that could use the information you are trying to put out. I want to get it to them. My hope is they will respond to it, because I know the information can set them free from the situation they are all in.

I admit I am puzzled and saddened that Christians can find themselves in such abusive churches. Surely there are warning signs that something is not quite right. My heart goes out to the families torn apart by the spiritual abuse of aberrrant, authoritarian and legalistic "churches".

I know that after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. (Acts 20:29-31; NET)

Friday, November 07, 2003

Where is God in All This? 

Just read a book review in the current issue of The Walrus. The book is entitled Shake Hands with the Devil by Canadian Lt. General Roméo Dallaire, and is his retelling of the Rwandan genocide. The reviewer, Stephen Lewis, writes of his reaction after reading it: "It left me shaken, reeling, aghast, tormented." Lewis quotes Dallaire's cry of anguish after witnessing the horrific atrocities five days after the genocide erupted: "Where was God in all this horror? Where was God in the world's response?"These questions have haunted me as well as I reflect on the history of humankind. I'm not sure I've encountered a theodicy that truly answers all the questions; I doubt if I ever will.

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